Posts Tagged ‘customer’

Peter Shankman on Customer Intimacy

Q&A with Peter Shankman, Social Media Specialist and Keynote Speaker at Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative

Peter ShankmanNext week, leading social minds from some of the biggest brands in the world will gather in San Francisco for Sysomos’ Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative. We sat down with the event’s keynote speaker, social media specialist and author Peter Shankman, to discuss the role of social media to build loyalty in the age of the ADHD consumer.

Q: Thanks for letting us pick your brain today. So how do companies achieve customer loyalty through social media?

PS: The first thing to understand is that customers have an overwhelming, burning desire to be loyal. But in order to be loyal, customers need to be loved first – they need a reason to be loyal.

The fact is, consumers today expect to be treated like garbage – like a number. But if you treat me one level better than a number, I’m yours for life. Take last week for example. I needed to find a place in Miami to watch the Rangers game and a local bar replied to my tweet. Just the fact that they did that made me want to go there to watch the game.

Shankman_Tweet

Q: Can a company use an interaction like that to measure success?

PS: At the end of the day, it must translate into revenue to be a success. Revenue comes with loyalty, but it doesn’t come with clicking a “Like” button.

Q: Are companies then misguided to rely on “Likes” and “Follows” as a measure of customer loyalty?

PS: The concept of “Liking,” “Friending,” “Following,” and “Fanning” is going away. The last time you friended someone in the real world was 2nd grade when you asked, “will you be my friend?”

If you go to a restaurant a lot you don’t need to “Like” it, you already do. The key for companies is to create an exceptional customer service experience, or as is often the case, an experience that merely reaches one level above what’s expected. Do that and customers will like you; they will love you; they will come back; they will bring friends and they will drive new revenue.

Q: Can you give an example from your career of how you created a customer experience that exceeds expectations?

PS: Take HARO for example. HARO succeeded in part because every user felt invested and that if they ever had a problem they could email me directly. When we used a customer’s suggestion, we sent an email saying ‘Hey Mark, we implemented YOUR idea.’ Even if 8,000 people had suggested the same thing, we sent an email to each one. When you do that customers become invested, and they will spend more money and be motivated to tell you exactly how you are doing.

Q: Do companies engage enough in two-way communication with their customers?

PS: The biggest misconception that companies have is that they can rely on analytics and numbers without ever talking to their customers. Why not call 10 customers each morning and ask them how they’re doing? Take advantage of all the people at your disposal who have given you their information.

Q: Is that how you stay in touch?

PS: I just listen as much as I can. I look at what people are doing.  What kind of phone are they using? What kind of apps are they using? There’s a wonderful service I use called Product Hunt, which sends me an email each morning with the best products and services voted on by its members. There are about 15-20 apps and services that are built into my life that I use on a regular basis.

Q: What applications do you find most effective to connect with people?

PS: Facebook is the network where people try too hard, Twitter’s the network where people won’t shut up and LinkedIn’s the network where people seriously need to take off their tie and have a drink. That being said, if you put all three together you get positive benefit from them. For me though, nothing in my life ever precludes me from checking email. Email is first. Email is the killer app. Email will never go away.

Q: Any parting words of wisdom?

PS: At the end of the day, the goal for the people you follow and the people who follow you is best summed up by Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs: We covet what we see every day.

 

The keynote speaker at Sysomos’ Social and the Customer Intimacy Imperative event on June 17th, Peter Shankman is currently a Principal at Shankman|Honig, a consultancy designed to help corporations, businesses, and retail operations create stellar customer service that resonates in our new “conversation economy,” driving revenue, repeat business, and new customers. An entrepreneur, author, speaker, and worldwide connector who is recognized nationally and globally for radically new ways of thinking about Social Media, PR, Marketing, Advertising, creativity, and just about everything else, Peter is also founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique Marketing and PR Strategy firm located in New York City, with clients worldwide.

Getting Close to Customers is Easier Said Than Done

By John Sanchez

 

CloseToCustomersWith Sysomos hosting an upcoming event in San Francisco about the link between social media and customer intimacy, I’ve been thinking even more lately about what “customer intimacy” really means. And it occurred to me that the term is really just the latest incarnation of a time-honored approach to delivering great products and service: Get close to your customers.

During a recent leadership meeting, I asked a group of our executives to stand up, put a hand in the air and repeat the phrase “we’re getting closer to our customers” five times while turning in circles. I’m proud to report that some members of the team took to the exercise with great enthusiasm—predictably, they were the Sales folks. Finance was a bit less enthusiastic. HR played along, but they were keeping an eye on me.

When we completed the exercise, I asked everyone to put down their hands and look to their left and right. Then I asked: “So are we any closer to our customers?” I’m pretty sure it had the desired effect.

The concept of customer intimacy is not new. In fact, you’ll find a virtually endless array of research, books, case studies and testimonials on the topic. While I find it curious that there’s still an endless appetite for even more “new” and “original” thought on the topic when so much excellent work always exists, the main takeaway for me is this: customer intimacy remains incredibly relevant today because it’s an objective companies truly want and need to attain.

I’m familiar with enough of the research to frame up a discussion about customer intimacy using all the usual jargon. But I think it would be far more helpful to share a few practical lessons about what it really takes to pursue customer intimacy—based on what I’ve learned over the years simply by rubbing elbows with the people we in business call “customers.”

  1. A fish rots from the head. Leadership is a privilege, and leaders set the tone for the organization in a million different ways. In the end, every resource a company has stems from the good will—and patronage—of customers. Customers can take their business elsewhere for any reason at any time. A company’s most senior leaders must sincerely understand and humbly demonstrate their appreciation of customers if there is to be any hope of influencing front-line staff to walk their talk.
  1. Common sense is not common. We all intuitively seem to understand what if means to receive exceptional service and how it looks when we deliver it. Yet consistent execution against this standard is the exception, rather than the rule. The path to “that very hot place” in the world of customer experience is paved with the best intentions. It’s true that the best and most memorable service experiences feel spontaneous. But the accompanying reality is that extraordinary, branded customer experiences—the consistent, intentional, differentiated and valued experiences that delight customers so much they’re willing to pay a premium for them—are the product of meticulous planning and hard work.  Companies that enjoy intimacy with their customers and provide exceptional service understand that it doesn’t just “happen.” They’ve worked tirelessly to plan, build processes, track and measure in order to ensure that their product or service meets or exceeds expectations.
  1. Service starts at home. We can’t expect that an organization’s ability to deliver service to customers would exceed the degree to which it regards its own team members and supplier-partners. A leader who walks by a team member she sees every day and fails to acknowledge that person’s humanity probably expects that team member to answer every call professionally and cheerfully. If internal systems for reward and recognition, coaching and feedback, payroll, or benefits are lacking, it’s a good bet that many of the steps along the customer journey—such as new customer onboarding, product sales and service, invoicing, and all the background processes that support them—are flawed as well.
  1. All the lessons learned before kindergarten from people like Dr. Seuss still count. Laugh if you like, but “please” and “thank you” are still the magic words. And if you keep frowning like that, there actually is a chance that your face may stay that way forever. We can find a great deal of wisdom on how we should listen to and try to understand customers in the digital age by reading, re-reading and applying lessons from Horton Hears a Who. Moreover, Yertel the Turtle nicely lays out the consequences for leaders who don’t listen to their team members—and for companies who don’t listen to their customers.
  1. Customers’ needs are simple. Soon after I first started working at Harrah’s Casino, I was assigned the task of observing service levels at our famous seafood buffet—under the watchful eye of a mentor of mine named Paul. We were running a special promotion that night, so the place was packed, and there was a long line of customers waiting to be seated that was getting even longer. Paul, an experienced pit boss who had cut his teeth at the Flamingo back in the early 1960s, had a sharp eye and an even sharper tongue. He immediately saw the problem and motioned for me to help as he quickly stepped in to seat customers and get the line moving. Later on when the line cleared, he set me straight: “Kid, customers only want three things: perfect, now and free. We mostly ain’t going to give it to ‘em free, so we’d better do the other parts great.” There’s really nothing I can add to that.
  1. “Try, try again.” I intentionally left off the first part of this proverb (“if at first you don’t succeed”) because even if you do succeed, it will be fleeting. Just as perfection should never get in the way of better, good is the enemy of great. Customers, competitors, the environment and technology are in constant flux, so solutions must be agile enough to anticipate and quickly change.
  1. Technology evolves to serve people, so it should be used only if it helps your customers. This week, I interviewed a candidate for a role at Sysomos. He mentioned that before his day had even started, he found that he’d been invited to a pub event, noticed that someone had a poor experience on an airline, and discovered that many people were exchanging views about the abdication of the King of Spain. Our candidate received all of this information, and contributed his own perspectives, over social networks. For him, social media is second nature—it’s simply how he communicates. So user, beware: trying to leverage social networks to become intimate with customers before you’ve attended to the basics is like trying to e-mail before you’ve achieved a basic level of literacy. Even worse, it will reveal what you don’t know and increase the chances of poor communication.  What’s clear is the fact that social media makes it much more difficult to “fake it” if you are not committed to customer intimacy and service.

If you’ve read this far, you may be scratching your head, wondering: “How can it be this simple, especially given all of the continuing discussion on this topic?” You may even be tempted to discount these seven principles as obvious platitudes with no underlying value. But as Ockham’s razor tells us, in the absence of certainty, the simplest explanation is often the most apt.

Talking about getting closer to customers while you turn around in circles won’t get you any closer to achieving it. But taking action to bring these seven principles to life in your company is guaranteed to take you a long way toward realizing the goal of customer intimacy.

 

John Sanchez is EVP of Global Operations at Marketwired—the parent company of Sysomos—where he leads the organization’s customer engagement and lean process redesign initiatives, and also oversees the client support teams that service Sysomos-powered products across the enterprise. A decorated combat veteran and graduate of both the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Wharton School of Business, he has over 26 years of experience in engineering, operational and financial roles in diverse industries.

Moving Beyond Social Media Tactics to Find Business Value

Today’s blog has been written by Marketwire and Sysomos’ COO, Jim Delaney

If you were to believe the recent blog headline “Social Media is a Waste of Time for B-to-B,” then your company may miss an a significant opportunity to create communication that leads to valuable business outcomes.  Given the nascent nature of the Social Media revolution, there is no shortage of headlines like these based on an incomplete understanding of end-to-end business process.   Most posts, like this one, address the value of social media in the context of infrastructure only, detailing the components of the infrastructure that must be in place. Rather than focusing on the infrastructure only, businesses need to think about how social media can support the infrastructure, while also providing high-level business value.

The first question you should always ask is, ”How will social media support my company’s higher level goals, and why do we want to engage in social media?” As an executive and marketer, it’s not that I don’t care about the number of friends, followers, views and retweets.  But, I’m much more interested in seeing a clearer picture of how social media affects my company on a business level. Does social media help us to manage our company’s reputation, augment our customer service program, gain market share, and/or increase employee productivity?

Too often, the focus on social media is tactical communications, with marketing, branding and PR departments rushing to have conversations and share content, without understanding how participation connects to higher-level goals. Simply pumping content through different channels clearly is not enough.  Social media success, of course, is based on several basic best practices including:  a good functional website where you can drive social media traffic, a customer service program capable of answering questions at numerous touch points, a strong industry presence and the resources to support relationship building with your stakeholders.

However, moving beyond the initial infrastructure, you must also look more closely at using social media to create opportunities that result in better:

Reputation Management

Social media allows a company to proactively set up a customer “listening” program with data and insights to determine how your stakeholders think and feel about your brand. Armed with an enormous amount of analytics, you are able to keep a pulse on the market. You are also constantly monitoring customer sentiment and preventing the smallest negative conversations from escalating into what could be a mountain of crisis, by simply being responsive. Addressing issues as they arise is the best way to preserve a thought leadership position and maintain a positive image in an age of public conversations.

Customer Service Satisfaction

Facebook has become a customer service portal, with employee representatives answering questions, offering useful advice and solving problems on your pages. Whether it’s a simple inquiry about your product or a verified complaint, a social network can serve as a helpful forum, opening up a new avenue for stakeholders to praise your service or vent their dissatisfaction. Companies have learned quickly that using Facebook to answer questions cuts down on the call center inquiries, which, in turn, also cuts costs. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of every business. If your stakeholders are participating in social media, then you need to be listening carefully with the right tools to help and solve their issues.

Lead Generation and Sales

The social media million-dollar question is how does community engagement create leads, which convert to product sales?  Where social media analytics end, website analytics begin.  You must track how your social media program drives traffic to your website, and then monitor your stakeholder behavior from there. Using unique landing pages as a part of a Facebook contest or a Twitter promotion allows you to capture leads on the page, and then use the information to further engage with interested parties.  However, if you are not set up properly to capture the social media analytics and track from click to conversation on your website, then you will not be able to see a direct connection between social media participation and potential sales for your company.

Employee Productivity

As much as we rush to communicate through social networks, tremendous value comes from the education and subsequent internal collaboration of your employees.  Training employees to understand, embrace and use social media collectively in their departments and even cross functionally opens up your organization to innovation and idea generation. Collaborative technology can be used from brainstorming new product ideas to strategic planning initiatives. Cutting back on email, and streamlining your process by editing documents in real time, is a great way to increase productivity, and also to assure consistent communications messaging, from champion to champion across the organization.

Of course, if you don’t have the basics down, then there is no way your organization can even begin to think about how social media is tied to increased market share, reputation management, better customer service, enhanced lead generation and greater employee productivity.   Get the basics or infrastructure in place, know what you’re trying to achieve and create a social media plan with strategies that lead to greater outcomes.

If you can think about the higher-level goals first, then you will find social media is not a waste of time. In fact, you will realize it leads to valuable business outcomes.